FRISCO, Texas – Having studied the tape, here's a closer look at the two big matchups I think will go a long way in determining the outcome of this Cowboys-Eagles tilt.
Dallas Cowboys OT Doug Free vs. Philadelphia Eagles DE Brandon Graham
Brandon Graham is a disruptive force that must be game planned to contain him. I don't see these coaches allowing Doug Free to just single block him all night. They need to think about chipping, doubling and trapping him – the more looks the better.
Graham can be a problem to handle in the pocket. He has a real passion for the game and a relentless motor off the ball. He is a short strider but can cover some ground in those steps. He bites, scratches and fights to get to the quarterback – and he comes with a wide variety of moves. He has the ability to come off the edge and go to the ball.
This is a smart player that adjusts to schemes quickly and is a hard guy to fool. He shows effort all the way to the whistle and has outstanding hand, foot and lateral quickness. He shows a good use of hands to knock down the pass protector's punch. You also see top-level positional agility and lateral quickness, as he flattens out well against the outside run.
You also have to account for Graham on the backside. He will run down plays if left unblocked. Consistent to bend and push the pocket in his pass rush. He works to finish, and he makes a blocker work from snap to whistle to block him. He will line up at both end spots, so you have to be ready for him and Fletcher Cox lining up on the same side near each other – you're going to get some type of line stunt from them in that position.
Where Free could have the most problems with him is on the straight bull rush. Free will struggle when he has to deal with a rusher that is able to play with the type of power that Graham has shown. The Minnesota Vikings tackles set entirely too soft throughout the game last week and Sam Bradford paid for it with numerous hits.
Dallas Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick vs. Philadelphia Eagles WR Jordan Matthews
Orlando Scandrick has not suited up since the Washington game in Week 2 due to hamstring issues in both legs. Finally healthy and ready to go, he will resume his role as the nickel/slot corner taking over for rookie Anthony Brown, who has been dependable in his absence.
Scandrick will see a familiar face across the ball from him in Jordan Matthews. The challenge that Matthews presents for Scandrick is his height. There aren't many receivers he has dealt with playing inside that measure 6-3. In four games against Dallas, Matthews has 19 catches for 264 yards and three touchdowns. During his last game at AT&T Stadium in 2015, he had nine grabs for 133 yards and one touchdown.
If Scandrick does have an advantage, it's that he will not be afraid of Matthews' speed. Scandrick should be able to run with him all day, assuming that his hamstrings allow him to do so. Matthews is a long strider and will be build up speed as he goes. He is going to have to bully Scandrick in order to separate from him.
Expect to see Matthews try and run Scandrick all over the field in order to test him. His best routes are when he can work across the field to catch the ball on the move. Conditioning for Scandrick in this matchup will be a key, and if he needs a rest, the fallback plan will be to use Brown or Byron Jones in order to manage the game.